Creating a Safe and Functional Backyard for a Child on the Autism Spectrum


By Danny Knight

Home safety precautions are always important when children are around. For kids who are on the autism spectrum, safe surroundings are essential, especially in the backyard where kids can get into all kinds of trouble.

Pay particular attention to behavior that’s your autistic child is most likely to exhibit. For example, if he likes to explore and get into tight spaces, you’ll need to keep the tool shed or garage locked and inaccessible. If he or she likes to touch things, your backyard will need to be checked for poison ivy or bushes with thorns. With careful attention to detail and an understanding of your child’s condition, your backyard can be a fun and educational place for an autistic child.

Tools and toys

Make sure all lawn and gardening tools are kept picked up and locked away to prevent the possibility of serious injury and remove the possibility that your child might reach for a pair of garden shears or a shovel in a fit of temper or frustration. It can be easy to overlook seemingly insignificant objects, so take a walk around the yard periodically to make certain everything’s been put away. Do likewise with any toys that could present a safety hazard, such as a croquet mallet or a lawn dart. The object is to reduce the possibility of an accident as much as possible so your child can have fun and learn in a safe and nurturing outdoor environment.

Locks and security

Autistic children sometimes wander off by themselves when doors are left open or unlocked. If yours is going to be in the backyard quite a bit this summer, you’ll need to keep the gate locked and make sure there are no gaps in your safety fencing large enough for a child to slip through. At the same time, your fence should be too high for a child to climb over. If there are dogs next door, make sure they aren’t able to dig underneath the fence. If you have a swimming pool, it should be secured by a safety fence, which should be kept locked at all times.

Lawn furniture

Lawn furniture represents a tripping hazard for kids who are playing outside without regard to their surroundings. There should be no sharp edges, and chairs must be sturdy enough to withstand kids jumping on them. Store any excess furniture away in a shed or garage, and keep furniture surfaces clear.

Harmful plants

Try to keep your yard clear of poison ivy, poison oak, or any weed that could cause a rash or painful reaction. Always be sure to cover exposed skin if you’re doing yard work, and use good quality gloves. If you have rose bushes or plants with needles, put safety fencing around them to prevent injury.

Family activities

Spending family time together can be beneficial for a child on the autism spectrum. Make a do-it-yourself bird feeder and try to identify the different bird species that visit. There’s no need to assemble an award-winning prize entry – you can do the trick with some Cheerios and a pipe cleaner, or a pine cone and some peanut butter rolled in bird seed. There are so many ways to enjoy educational time with your child outdoors; check out other ideas from Plexus.

Backyard camping trip

Your kids will love an overnight camping trip in the backyard. Set up the tent, unroll the sleeping bags and get ready to throw some hot dogs on the grill. If it’s warm enough, lie out under the stars and identify as many constellations as you can.

Spring and summer are meant to be spent outdoors. It’s a time for kids to learn new things while having fun with siblings and friends. If you have an autistic child, you can ensure he’ll have fun this summer by creating a safe and functional outdoor environment.